We have a bit of a dilemma in the US: if you want to wrestle on your high school team in most states, you must wrestle the boys. Unfortunately, most parents and athletes are not comfortable with the idea of competing in a contact sport with boys. This means female athletes who would like the sport of wrestling are less inclined to join. As prideful as it may be to compete against the opposite gender and be successful, it doesn't always prove fruitful for the sport in the long run.
There are many girls who have been successful on their boys team. This helps create interest and an open door for other girls to join the team when there are no other opportunities. But it has also caused a stir among girls who exclusively compete against boys: they begin to fear loosing to a girl. Or maybe the reality is, they fear their teammates knowing they've lost to a girl. The challenge comes when male and female teammates begin to make fun of a teammate. They quantify a loss against a boy as "normal," but a loss against a girl as a failure. Maybe you thought this blog would be about a boy loosing to a girl. We've all heard these stories. As the sport grows a new, unfortunate narrative arises.
Has our thinking become complacent to pretend that if you are beating the boys, you would never lose to a girl? That is completely false. First, there is nothing about competition that guarantees you a win. For me, the mental stress from such unexpected losses would have made me quit this sport a long time ago! By creating this fallacy, we are lessening the values we put on female athletes in general. Would you want the girl you beat to be made fun of because she lost to you? Would that mean you aren't a good athlete, all because you are a girl? There is no way the fastest growing sport in the US is not producing good female athletes.
It is disappointing to see teammates, as well as female teammates, give girls grief if they lose to a girl. What is competition, then, if not a means to test yourself against the best. If you were part of a soccer, basketball, or softball team, would you berate your teammates because you lost to another female team? Nothing about those sports gives the inclination that they are lesser athletes because they are females. So why do we do it in wrestling?
Wrestling is already a sport with barriers to entry for girls. You need the personality and drive to decide to join a boys team, and to stick with it. So why would we knock each other down? We need the numbers to grow and thrive in the US! Supporting your female teammates is extremely important. Opportunities are key, and showing the importance of same-gender competition helps create opportunities for future generations.
This change can only start with you. Everyone deserves the opportunity to compete without the pressures of losing. When it comes to competition, everyone prepares to the best of their ability. This is what makes sport so exciting, as it is a completely unknown result! We are in the infancy of this sport, and until girls only wrestle girls, we will continue to encounter many of these challenges. You can change the narrative before it becomes engrained with your team.